Carolina Panthers

Intriguing Panthers, position by position, as team transitions from OTAs to camp

May and June's Carolina Panthers workouts didn't allow any contact, but they did offer a look at the potential in each position group.

Training camp starts on July 26 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.

Here is a player for each position group who showed promise in minicamp, to keep handy for when the real action begins:

Quarterback: Cam Newton

Would there be any other option? Newton and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner have been getting into sync and diving into Turner's playbook this spring. Newton, entering his eighth NFL season, already has progressed further than he did last year at this time, when he couldn't throw overhand as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

But this spring, he not only has his health but a new group of receivers he seems to vibe well with so far. A healthy Newton in camp will bring up the level of competition for everybody, on both sides of the ball.

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Wide receiver: D.J. Moore

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore will be under heavy scrutiny in training camp this summer as the team's first-round draft pick, and is expected to immediately contribute. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

The rookie wide receiver needs to solidify his value as a first-round pick in training camp, when the pads go on.

We already know that Moore has a strong set of hands and runs routes well. But what we still need to see is what sold general manager Marty Hurney on Moore in the first place: his ability to create yards after the catch, despite contact. He'll certainly get contact in camp.

If second-year receiver Curtis Samuel is healthy enough to return to full action by training camp, he'll also be an exciting player to watch.

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Running back: C.J. Anderson

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Carolina Panthers free-agent acquisition CJ Anderson brings an impressive resume as the team’s new power running back. Training camp will shine a light on how well he and pass-catching back Christian McCaffrey can work together in Norv Turner’s offense. Chuck Burton AP Photo

Anderson brings a stellar resume to the Panthers offense, and has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. It will be good to see what he can do against contact and how he fits in tandem with pass-catching back Christian McCaffrey in Turner's offense. Is it possible we see a modern version of LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles?

Also, will Anderson dress in head-to-toe sweats in the Spartanburg heat?

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Tight end: Ian Thomas

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Carolina Panthers rookie Ian Thomas has great athletic ability and will get a chance to compete for the team's No. 2 tight end spot in camp. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

We know what the Panthers will get in Greg Olsen this year: consistent playmaking.

But rookie Ian Thomas, who filled in on first team tight end No. 2 snaps on the last day of minicamp, looks like a heck of an athlete. He will be battling Chris Manhertz for the position, and it is shaping up to be an exciting fight.

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Offensive line: Taylor Moton

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Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Taylor Moton (72) will need to step up in training camp to compete with Amini Silatolu for the starting left guard position. Chuck Burton AP

By indicating Thursday that the vacant left guard spot is Amini Silatolu's to lose, head coach Ron Rivera provided the match to light a fire under second-year guard/tackle Taylor Moton.

Moton has to step up and fight once training camp gets under way. He'll also be competing with Tyler Larsen, and perhaps the undrafted free agent guards the Panthers brought in as well.

It'll be one of the most exciting and scrutinized position battles in camp.

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Defensive line: Wes Horton

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Carolina Panthers defensive end Wes Horton (96) has been a situational playmaker in the past, but he might get his number called to rotate with Julius Peppers as a starter this fall. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Horton has been used mostly situationally as a defensive end and interior pass-rusher. But without former veteran starter Charles Johnson, the Panthers need a starting-caliber player to rotate with veteran Julius Peppers opposite Mario Addison.

It might be Horton's year, but he'll have to show consistency this summer.

Linebacker: Shaq Thompson

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Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson will start in place of Thomas Davis, who has been suspended four games by the NFL, this fall. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

While veteran Thomas Davis will be able to participate in camp despite his four-game suspension by the NFL, the Panthers will want Thompson to get as many snaps as he can to adjust to filling in for Davis.

Thompson is not a flashy guy, and he's flown somewhat under the radar since he was a highly-touted draft prospect out of Washington in 2015. But he appears to have bulked up a little in preparation for the role, which will put a spotlight on the development of his strength, speed and comfort as a starting linebacker.

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Cornerback: Donte Jackson

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Carolina Panthers Donte Jackson (26) hopes to be the team's new starting outside cornerback, but he needs to show he can beat Kevon Seymour for the position in training camp. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Jackson, a rookie second-round pick, thrives in competition, and that's exactly what he'll face this summer as he fights for the starting outside cornerback spot opposite James Bradberry.

Jackson will likely do well when he's able to showcase his speed and coverage ability, and will compete with Kevon Seymour, the favorite to start because of his experience in the Panthers' system.

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Safety: Da'Norris Searcy

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Carolina Panthers defensive back Da'Norris Searcy (21) will add a veteran presence to a defensive backfield that has had a ton of change in recent years. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

While many are curious about third-round draft pick Rashaan Gaulden and how he can fit in at safety, don't sleep on Searcy.

The veteran leaned out this offseason to get faster and more flexible. He also has been working well in tandem with veteran Mike Adams. That chemistry can be valuable for a secondary that has gone through so much change in the last several years.

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Special teams: Returners

Receivers Damiere Byrd, Moore, Torrey Smith and Samuel and running backs McCaffrey and Kenjon Barner have all been getting looks at returner. This is a much more talent-loaded group than the Panthers have had at the position in quite some time.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue
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